Painting in Compigné representing the Château de Choisy on the Seine side


France, circa 1775
Attributed to Thomas Compigné
Pewter, gold, colored varnish and gouache


Similar examples:
–  Thomas Compigné, View of the château de Choisy on the Seine side, private collection
–  Thomas Compigné, View of the château de Choisy on the Seine side, 5,5 inches x 6,5 inches, private collection
–  Thomas Compigné, View of the château de Choisy on the Seine side, 5,5 inches x 6,5 inches, private collection
–  Thomas Compigné, View of the château de Choisy on the Seine side, 5,5 inches x 6,5 inches, private collection
–  Thomas Compigné, Claude-Louis Chevalier, Le Château de Choisy-le-Roy, 13 x 17 cm, Sceaux, Collections du musée du Domaine départemental de Sceaux (inv. 37.3.3)

This small rectangular painting in stamped pewter, enhanced with gold and gouache represents a view of the Château de Choisy from the Seine.
The courtyard facade of the castle is described with great precision thanks to the technique of stamping a pewter plate. It corresponds to the facade overlooking the Seine with an Ionic order marking the central forebody realized by Thomas Compigné. Two main buildings framing the courtyard are marked by projecting forebodies also decorated with triangular pediments. The foundations as well as the corners of the whole are underlined by refrets. The whole is topped with a mansard roof punctuated with dormers and pairs of oculi above the pediments of the two wings.
In front of the facade, flowerbeds of embroidery decorate the terrace bordering the Seine. The latter, represented in the foreground, is separated from the garden by a quay which central part used to form an overhang on the left of which a staircase that gave direct access to the river. Several pleasure boats are sailing on the water on which one can distinguish small characters that animate the scene as well, as numerous silhouettes of walkers in the flowerbeds.
These characters are enhanced with gouache as well as the slightly pink sky which colors evoke the end of the day light.
The details of the castle are perfectly visible thanks to the stamping of the pewter plate. The latter is enhanced with gold, silver, and colored enamel: the enameled roof, the foliage of the trees and the Seine, make this representation particularly precise and lively. A green enameled frame with a striated pattern decorates the outline of the painting.

Paintings in Compigné
Of great preciosity and variety of materials, the paintings in Compigné were made according to a mysterious process starting from a sheet of tortoiseshell or cardboard to which a pewter or gold leaf was applied. The surface could then be decorated with gold, silver, gouache and colored varnishes. These miniatures, known today under the name of Compigné, encountered a major success in the 1760s.The small format, characteristic of this production, required to work in extreme precision, probably with the help of a magnifying glass, in order to develop the perfection of these technical details and colors.
The views of the Château de Choisy appear to have been quite successful, as several similar examples are known today: repeating the same theme, the artist managed to use different colors and to modify the composition as well as the frames. They were often presented in pairs, associating a view of the courtyard with a view of the Seine.

Thomas Compigné
Thomas Compigni probably arrived from Italy around 1750, and later on took the name Compigné when he settled in the shop Roi David, rue Greneta, in Paris. As a tabletier, he specialized in the manufacture and sale of boxes, knitting sets, draughts and chess sets, snuffboxes and other cane handles of blond tortoiseshell inlaid with gold. Renowned for the quality of his objects, he passed on to posterity through the production of precious paintings which technique remains unknown to that day. In 1773, he presented two views of the Château de Saint-Hubert to the King and obtained the title of “tabletier privilégié du Roi” under Louis XV and Louis XVI. His themes of predilection were most often views of towns, monuments and châteaux in the extension of park or landscape perspective. The ensembles were almost always animated by small characters.

The Château de Choisy
The Château de Choisy-le-Roi was one of Louis XV’s favorite residences.
Its history began in 1677, with the arrival of Mademoiselle de Montpensier, known as la Grande Mademoiselle. Only daughter to Gaston d’Orléans, Louis XIII’s and Marie de Bourbon- Montpensier’s brother, she was Louis XIV’s cousin. Having acquired a plot of land on the banks of the Seine in Choisy, where there was a mansion that she quickly had demolished, she called upon Jacques IV Gabriel between 1678 and 1679 to build a castle on the site of the old house. This residence then enjoyed a perspective crossing the main building, between the main entrance, the courtyard, and the garden at the back; the wings were marked by two pavilions decorated with projecting outbuildings which echoed the central outbuilding, where the main entrance of the castle was located. The first floors of the outbuildings were highlighted by continuous bosses.
At her death in 1693, Mademoiselle bequeathed the residence to her half-brother, Monseigneur, known as the Grand Dauphin, Louis de France (1661-1711), who exchanged it two years later for the Château de Meudon with Anne de Souvré, Louvois’ widow. His heirs sold the estate to the Princesse de Conti in 1717. When she arrived, she had a wing built next to the main building, facing the Seine, visible here on the left side of the Compigné.
Louis XV, seduced by the estate located near the great hunting forests, acquired it after the Princesse de Conti’s death in 1739. Little by little, he transformed it into an intimate place, constantly embellishing it by entrusting it to his first architect Jacques V Gabriel, and to his son Ange-Jacques Gabriel. He initially used it for a small circle of family members. Indeed, from 1746 onwards, it became the place where the royal family met, in a less formal setting. It soon required the construction of new outbuildings, as well as a second, more intimate, small castle. As for the main castle, it underwent major work elaborated with Gabriel. The interior layout was modified, and the courtyard façade was demolished in order to obtain a larger surface. A new facade was designed on the model of the one overlooking the Seine. It included an Ionic order marking the central forebody, surmounted by a pediment which corresponded to the one visible on this Compigné.
Choisy was for the king a place ideal for relaxation, well suited for games, parties, and walks along the Seine. He considered this castle as his “family home”; unlike Versailles, Fontainebleau and Compiègne, which were more official residences.
After the death of Louis XV, the castle was gradually abandoned. Louis XVI did not like it and its maintenance was too expensive. In 1787, the castle was stripped of its furniture and given to the War Department to be used as barracks. During the Revolution, the estate was sold at auction in 1791 as national property. The park and the buildings were sold in lots to about twenty private owners. The buildings were thus dismantled and demolished little by little, leaving very few visible traces in the landscape today.

Anaïs Bornet, Renaud Serrette, Stéphane Castelluccio, Gabriela Lamy, Le château de Choisy, Paris, Honoré Clair, 2021.
Anita Semail, « ces délicats chefs-d’œuvre de la tabletterie au XVIIIe siècle : Les Compigné et leurs créateurs », Plaisir de France n° 427, March 1975.
Ouvrage collectif, Compigné, peintre et tabletier du Roy, catalogue d’exposition, Grasse, Villa- Musée Jean-Honoré Fragonard, June-July 1991.
Myriam Escard-Bugat, « Mystérieux Compignés », L’objet d’art, n° 567, May 2020, pp. 26- 30.

Good overall condition

Additional information

Dimensions 17,5 × 13,5 cm